They say third time’s the charm… About a month ago, I posted that I was going to give up trying to bake a successful castella cake. For those of you who have never heard of castella cake (also called Kasutera cake), it is a popular Japanese sponge cake that has a texture which is quite different from typical asian sponge cakes.
I’d had two failed attempts and the only recipe that seemed promising also seemed very complicated. I had just bought some castella cake at my local japanese market and it tasted good and only cost me $4. Why waste my time trying to bake my own?
But I got a rush of comments and encouragement, and I decided to give it just one more try…and this time it worked! I was so thrilled. I put off checking on my cake for the longest time. I was so afraid it had collapsed like my previous attempts. But when I finally took a peek, it was perfect.
Okay so it didn’t look as picture perfect as the ones I buy because the top did shrink a little like it is supposed to, but it tasted just like it should. And in some ways it tasted so much better because I had made it myself. The one on the left is the one I bought from the store. The one on the right is the one I made
There are a couple of things that make castella cake unique. For one thing, it doesn’t use any oil. No oil at all! You would think the cake would come out dry, but it doesn’t. You don’t miss the oil at all. The other thing that is different is the texture. Most asian sponge cakes have a light airy texture achieved by mixing egg whites into the batter. Castella cake actually is not light or full of air. Instead the crumbs on the cake are actually compact and tight. The texture actually creates a little bit of a bounce. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t eaten it before, but if you have, you probably know what I am talking about.
The key to baking a successful castella cake is in the eggs. The eggs must be beaten for a very long time over a pot of warm water which keep the eggs warm. The warm eggs are then able to achieve a meringue-like state which makes delicious castella cake that doesn’t collapse. When I first read about having to stand over a stove with a mixer for 15 or more minutes, I thought there was no way I was going to go to all that trouble.
However, the Boyfriend made a rare appearance in the kitchen and decided to do that part for me. It really helps to have a baking assistant. I did realize though that even if he wasn’t around, I could do this myself next time and not feel like it is too complicated. Yes, the eggs take a while. But once you finish the eggs you are almost done. There are so few ingredients in a castella cake that the hardest part of the preparation is the eggs. Then you whisk in some sugar, milk, honey and flour and it’s ready to go in the oven. So overall, the time to prepare is about the same time to prepare other dessert recipes.
What I learned about the eggs is that you want to beat them until they reach a stage where you could draw a letter on the top of the batter with your mixer and the letter would stay on the surface for a few moments before eventually sinking back down. I also noticed that the color of the eggs change from a pale yellow to almost a white color. I think we ended up beating the eggs on low speed for about 15 minutes before we achieved what we were looking for. We used a hand mixer. We put the bowl of eggs on top of a pot of water. I had previously boiled the water, turned it off, then while the pot still had some steam coming out, I placed my bowl of eggs on top. You don’t want it to be too hot because you don’t want your eggs to cook. About halfway into the mixing, I felt like the pot had cooled down too much, so then I turned the pot on very low, so it didn’t actually boil, but began to create some steam again to keep the egg mixture warm.
Another problem I encountered was cutting this cake. The cake is a little bit sticky because of the honey. I wanted my cake to slice perfectly. Perhaps I should have used a very big sharp knife. I was tempted to use my brother’s sashimi knife. Instead, I used a small sharp knife. And I cut very very slowly. Sort of like slowly peeling off a bandage. So with my knife I only cut into the cake a little at a time. I kept running my knife back and forth into the cake, but doing it almost like a saw motion and only digging in a little more at a time. I also wiped down the blade after each slice was completely cut. This seems to help create the effect I was looking for and my cake did not come out looking all ragged and uneven, but it’s still not perfect.
Usually the sides of the cake are cut off and the part that is served is the inside. The sides of the cake are actually a dark brown and have an almost dry/burned taste, so it doesn’t taste very good.
Another thing you must do with this cake is refrigerate it right away so that it does not dry out. This is one of the reasons it’s hard to prevent the collapsing. Normally a trick to preventing collapsing is allowing the cake to cool gradually by opening the oven door for about 10 minutes before taking the cake out. However, you don’t want the castella cake to cool at room temperature. You want to refrigerate it almost immediately. I took mine out and immediately it began to collapse. Within two minutes, or as soon as I could kind of handle the cake, I put it in a tupperware container, sealed it, and put it in the fridge and didn’t touch it until the next morning.
I’m going to make this again for my parents. I also want to try a matcha version which is a popular flavor I often see.
I got my successful baking tips from The Little Teochew, you should definitely check out her post. The recipe is actually here. And you can see a really cool video that shows how they hand mix this cake in Japan here! I can’t imagine hand mixing the entire time.
As you may have guessed by now, Oceanaire is one of our favorite restaurants in San Diego when we are in the mood for some fine dining.
The other night, the BF surprised me with a dinner reservation there. We got seated at an intimate booth in the section of our favorite server, Josh.
I don’t know why but I completely forgot to take a picture of the menu that night. If you haven’t been to Oceanaire, the menu changes daily depending on the fresh fish they have available.
For the starters, we stuck to the crab cakes. We both love the crabcakes so much that we can never seem to bring ourselves to give it up just once to try another appetizer.
For the main course, I ordered the Angry Snapper. It’s a whole snapper that is flash fried and then drizzled with hot spicy mayonnaise and peppers. As if having a whole fish isn’t filling enough, it’s served on a huge bed of mashed potatoes.
This is one of the priciest entrees on the fish list, but it also is quite filling. I’ve never finished one on my own. I always have BF help me out. It’s also not too complicated to eat. Our server Josh came over and was able to fillet the fish off the bone for both sides so that the fish meat is easily accessible.
Sometimes it’s fun to eat an entire whole fish as opposed to a fish fillet. It allows you to enjoy other parts of the fish, like the cheek, which is considered the best piece of meat on the fish.
BF decided to try a new menu item. A striped bass encrusted with Parmesan.
The parmesan cheese crust was rich and creamy. The fish was mild and sweet and there were some cherry tomatoes on the plate to add some additional sweetness as well. The flavors on the plate was definitely a play on the sweet and salty combination which the BF really enjoyed.
We were too full for dessert when our server asked us. But he decided we couldn’t go home without any dessert, so he brought us some milk and cookies.
I’ve gotten such a kick out of seeing milk and cookies on dessert menus at restaurants. It seems to be popping up more and more. It really brings out the kid in you to be sitting there eating warm cookies and drowning it with a cold glass of milk. It was the perfect finish to our evening.
Oceanaire Seafood Room
400 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
Hopefully you aren’t sick of my tangzhong bread posts because here’s another one. Tangzhong is a method for making bread created by Yvonne Chen, written in her book “65 Degrees Tangzhong.” It produces bread that is incredibly soft and fluffy and manages to stay soft and fluffy for days.
I’ve been trying to do as many creations as possible with the basic milk loaf. Soon I’ll be paying a visit home and my mom recently checked out the original 65 Degrees Tangzhong book for me and is going to help translate it, which means even more recipes for me to try! I can’t wait. I have a feeling though that the basic milk bread will be my favorite since it seems to be the common recipe I come across when I do a search for tangzhong recipes.
I love baking with matcha so I always try to create a matcha flavored something when I come across a new recipe I like. I thought rather than doing a fully matcha roll, it’d be nice to do a matcha mixed with regular white bread. I originally want to create more of a swirl effect, like I did with my matcha chocolate bread roll, but when I was making my rolls, I rolled them the wrong way. I still had time to change it but decided not to. I was curious as to what it would look like. The result is this striped look.
This bread smelled heavenly when it was baking. The bread came out sweet and soft as usual. I enjoyed the blend of matcha with the regular milk bread. I might experiment with a few more versions to decide which one is best to bring home to my parents when I go visit them in a few weeks.
I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting.
Recipe: Matcha Milk Bread
- 2½ cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (click here for making tangzhong, and please note that 120g is only a little over half of what that recipe makes, so don’t add the whole amount in this bread recipe)
2 tsp instant yeast
3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
- Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center. Add in all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong. Fit the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer and begin mixing on medium speed and knead until your dough comes together and then add in the butter and continue kneading. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic. I kneaded the dough for about 18-20 minutes. Each mixer may vary.
When the dough is ready it should not be very sticky and should be ealstic. To test this, you should be able to take a chunk of dough and stretch it to a very thin membrane before it breaks. When it does break, the break should be form a near perfect circle.
- Knead the dough into a ball shape with your hands. Split the dough roughly in half. Put half the dough back into the mixer. Add 1 tbsp of matcha powder and continue kneading with mixer for about 2 minutes on medium speed or until matcha powder is thoroughly mixed into the dough. Take 2 large bowls and grease with oil. Place each dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
- Transfer to a clean surface. Divide each dough into four equal portions (so 8 pieces total). Knead into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
- Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one piece of matcha dough rolled out into an oval and put it on top of the white dough already rolled out into an oval. Run the rolling pin a few times on top so that the two doughs begin to stick together to be one piece of dough. Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold to meet on top. (I forgot to take pictures of this particular bread. These pictures are from a previous tangzhong bread that shows what you need to do.)
- Flip dough over with the folds facing down,and flatten dough with rolling pin. (Again, I did not take pictures of the matcha milk bread I was making. These pictures just demonstrate what you should do, but this one doesn’t have the matcha layer.)
- Flip dough over so the folds face up. Now roll the dough up. (The picture below is one I took of a plain milk bread I made previously.) Place each of the rolls into the bread pan and put a piece of plastic wrap over the rolls. Let them rise until double the size, approximately another 40 minutes.
- Beat an egg and brush egg mixture on top to create shiny eggwash finish.
- Bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.